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Joseph Gold: Writer. Academic. Activist. Papa Joe. Born June 30, 1933 in London, England; died Jan. 13, 2018, in Sudbury; from heart disease; aged 84.

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Joseph Gold.The Globe and Mail

Joseph Gold believed in the power of words. Language was a craft he honed throughout his life, wielding carefully selected words as an academic and an activist.

As the youngest in his working-class Jewish family growing up in London during the Second World War, he felt safest getting lost in the lives of the heroes in his books. It is through his books that he first heard of Canada. He relished the idea of wide open spaces, snowy winters and a peaceful refuge far away from British class politics and dangerous skies.

During his studies at the University of Birmingham, he met his first wife, Sandra, an American. They moved to Madison, Wis., where they married and had their first child while Joe earned his PhD at the University of Wisconsin. In 1960, a teaching offer at the University of Manitoba brought Joe and his family to mythical Canada. Joe and Sandra settled in Winnipeg, where they raised their three children, Deborah, Anna and Joel. During his 10 years in Winnipeg, Joe also helped to establish a synagogue and found an outlet for his playful, dramatic nature through acting in local theatre productions. In 1970, a new job as chair of the English department at the University of Waterloo brought him further east and the family moved to a hobby farm outside of Baden, Ont.

His first marriage ended in divorce and he remarried in 1984, eventually moving back to the farm where his wife Brenda and her two young girls, Naomi and Sarah, joined him.

Joe believed that literature, beyond all else, is therapeutic. He delivered literary quotes with raw emotion, perfectly suited for every situation. He helped to bring the bibliotherapy movement to Canada, and two of his published books are based on the role of literature in human relations: Read for Your Life (1990) and The Story Species (2001).

In 1994, he moved to Northern Ontario with Brenda and Sarah. Joe and Brenda established a health-care practice in Haileybury, Ont., and he worked with librarians to help found a mental-health section in the local library. Joe also helped establish an interlibrary loan program so that rural libraries had access to a larger reading selection. Joe and Brenda also joined the fight to stop the Adams Mine on Kirkland Lake from becoming a dumping site. At one point, they slept on the railroad that would have brought garbage from Toronto to the proposed landfill site.

Passionate, easily outraged at injustice and buzzing with life, Joe finally settled with Brenda on Manitoulin Island. He continued to write from a converted shed – his "wordshop" – and relished the location; he’d worked his whole life for this serenity. He felt truly connected to the land and had a deep respect for the Indigenous peoples who called it home first. He was happy – he was blessed, as he repeatedly informed us. While in his final years he couldn’t roam far, he still sought refuge in his music, his movies and the critters’ journeys through his sprawling backyard. He was always crafting stories, always sharing them with those he loved most.

Rachel Berman is Joseph’s granddaughter.

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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